Straut keeps, McDonnell wins Voorheesville school board seat

NEW SCOTLAND — Voters passed a $23.8 million budget Tuesday, 768 to 198, and returned Diana Straut to her seat for a second term on the board of education.

Also, one library candidate’s lawn signs were stolen multiple times in the last few weeks, in a year when more signs than ever before sprouted up for both the school and library board races.


Two seats on the school board were open as Straut’s first term ended and school board President Timothy Blow did not seek another term.

Jeannie McDonnell won the second seat, garnering 452 votes to Straut’s 574. Patricia Putman and Rachel Gilker campaigned together, with Putman receiving 360 votes and Gilker receiving 268. The four-year terms are unpaid.

“I am so happy that the budget passed and that our community turned out to show their commitment to our schools,” Straut wrote in an email to The Enterprise. “I am grateful for and humbled by the support I've received. I'm very excited to continue supporting the good work that is happening in our schools.”

Putman said that she was disappointed that she did not win a seat, but she praised McDonnell and Straut.

“Jeannie and Diana are kind, caring women and very qualified.  I am touched by all the support I received while campaigning and would love to thank all of those that voted my way,” Putman wrote in an email to The Enterprise.

Her daughters, Sadie, in grade 5, and Gabby, in grade 7, helped Putman with campaigning and enjoyed meeting people, she said.

“I found the door-to-door work to be surprisingly rewarding, and enjoyed hearing what mattered to folks, as well as meeting many people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” Putman said.

Gilker told The Enterprise that she and Putman are keeping their campaign yard signs and may use them in a future school board race.

“We’re going to talk about what we’re going to do,” she said. “I think it was a great experience.”

Gilker said that she and Putman will continue to advocate for students in all grades.

“We want to represent their needs,” she said. Gilker said that the school board heard a presentation about class sizes then made a decision without much discussion from the public.

“It felt like they’d already made up their minds, walking in,” she said. Gilker said that all parents in the district should increase their communications with the schools. She is “working to help a great school system get even better,” she said.

“It was amazing how many people came together and were supporting Tricia and me,” Gilker said. Several parents campaigned for them and put balloons on their yard signs, she said. “It was really moving.”

At the vote, she said, many parents moved en masse from the soccer field where their children were playing to go vote at the school. When Gilker came out, she saw a rainbow arced across the sky.

“It was very moving seeing the community caring about the future,” she said.
Three propositions on the school district ballot — each of which met previous voter approval — were presented with increased costs, and each passed.
Residents voted to continue the district's ongoing vehicle-replacement plan and purchase one 28-passenger bus and two seven-passenger vans with a vote of 771 to 188.
Voters also supported spending $15,000 more than the $75,000 previously approved in November for emergency repairs to the school’s swimming pool’s filtration system at a cost of $90,000, for which the district will receive state aid. The pool proposition passed 764 to 195.

Finally, voters continued to support the repair of the pedestrian bridge from the Voorheesville Elementary School parking lot over the Vly Creek to the school building, and two sets of windows at the district’s bus garage, with an extra $72,000 added to the previously approved $203,000. The increase was due to higher bids than expected, the district said in an email. The bridge capital improvement project passed 724 to 236.

The district received nine write-in votes for school board: Mickey Mouse; William No. Charlie; Walter White; Bernie Sanders; Jason Windsor; Tom Precious; Donald Trump; Peter Drao; and Laurie Clark.


Library Trustee Bryan Richmond sought and won another five-year term on the five-member Voorheesville Public Library Board of Trustees with 429 votes, defeating former state archivist and Friends of the Library president Alan Kowlowitz who garnered 298.

The $1.16 million library budget also passed, 708 to 245.
The library board positions carry four-year terms, and are unpaid.
The district also received three write-in votes for the library board: Alex Trebek; Robert Esposito; and Peter Drao.

Kowlowitz’s campaign yard signs were stolen more than once, but he did not believe that the thefts affected the vote, he told The Enterprise.

“I saw his sign in a Dumpster behind a church,” Gilker said.

Kowlowitz confirmed that he found two of his signs in the Voorheesville First United Methodist Church Dumpster.

“On Saturday morning,” Kowlowitz said, “two of my signs were moved and were missing, and, I assumed, stolen. None of the other [candidates’] signs were molested.”

Kowlowitz put the signs back up. Another sign went missing from Route 85A, he said.

“I got upset. I went to the [church] Dumpster and found one,” he said. “It was intimidating and a bit upsetting. You don’t expect an election with no stakes — no salary tied to it —” to have such tactics. Most people he shared the incidents with were surprised, he said.

Kowlowitz said that he heard a description of the person who took his signs.

“Whoever did that was an adult, possibly an elderly person,” he said, noting that such “dirty tricks would not be associated with a library” race. “I don’t think it turned any votes, but it was intimidating.”

He said that mentioning the stolen signs publicly, and letting the person know he or she was observed, may “make them think twice” before employing similar tactics, again.

Kowlowitz put up signs near St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville on Saturday, he said, but collected them after the 5 p.m. Mass to be sure they were not stolen.

“It was inappropriate for a village library race,” he said. “We should model good behavior and not [use] behavior seen on the national level.”

Kowlowitz said that he may run again, although there were 13 years between his first two races.

“I will definitely make an attempt to attend library board meetings,” he said. “I may be there, even if I’m not a library board member.”  


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